General principles for labelling and advertising
It is the responsibility of regulated parties to comply with the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR), the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Among other purposes, these acts and regulations are intended to enable consumers to make informed food choices based on information that is truthful and not misleading.
Two broad prohibitions apply to all information provided in food labelling or advertising:
Subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act states:
No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.
Subsection 6(1) of the Safe Food for Canadians Act states:
It is prohibited for a person to manufacture, prepare, package, label, sell, import or advertise a food commodity in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, quality, value, quantity, composition, merit, safety or origin or the method of its manufacture or preparation.
Subsections 6(2) and (3) of the SFCA further clarify that a food commodity that is labelled, packaged or advertised in contravention of the SFCR is considered to be labelled, packaged or advertised in contravention of subsection 6(1) of the SFCA, and therefore in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression.
Subsection 199(1) of the SFCR identifies specifically some, but by no means all, of the ways that labels can mislead with respect to net quantity and composition. "False, misleading or deceptive labelling" includes, but is not limited to,
- any representation in which expressions, words, figures, depictions or symbols are used that may reasonably be considered to qualify the declared net quantity or that is likely to deceive a consumer with respect to the net quantity of a consumer prepackaged food, and
- any representation that implies or may reasonably be regarded as implying that an ingredient is present when it is not.
Subsection 199(2) of the SFCR also provides the example that "false, misleading or deceptive selling, importing and advertising" includes advertising a consumer prepackaged food that is labelled in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression.
These prohibitions apply to information that must be included on food labels in accordance to legislative and regulatory requirements, as well as representations communicated on a voluntary basis on either the food label or in advertising.
An official version of the applicable legislation can be found at Acts and Regulations.
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